Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Speaking up for wildlife

In case anyone has't noticed, there are fewer bees around this year than ever before. There are also noticeably fewer butterflies, moths, ladybirds, hover flies and insects of any other kind for that matter. To say that this is worrying would be a bit of an understatement.

Bees, beetles, earthworms and myriad other invertebrates provide us with the foundation upon which all life on earth depends, yet, apart from bees (which are fortunate enough to have had their commercial value as human crop pollinators recognised and touted in the press as a good reason to try and save them) these miniscule and mostly microscopic creatures are pretty much ignored. Worse than that, most of us grow up feeling scared, repulsed and/or threatened by these amazing creatures.

Our garden centres sell huge ranges of products suitable to kill any species of bug that dares to compete with us for food, or habitat. These highly toxic pesticides compete for shelf space in garden centres and DIY stores and supermarkets with an ever increasing array of herbicides designed to help us get rid of any stray wild plant that might try to creep in and live amongst the bedding plants and exotic shrubs in our pristine flower boarders.

Have we perhaps been afflicted with some kind of madness? Surely it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that life on Earth cannot be sustained if we continue to systematically wipe out the plants and animals that the planet's food chains and eco-systems depend upon for their very existence? If you were a visitor from another planet you might be forgiven for thinking the human race had declared war on anything with six or more legs....never mind the wild plants they used to thrive on!

In the 'State of Nature' report published earlier this month it was reported that around two thirds of our native flora and fauna is in decline. This is a shocking statistic by anyone's standards and cannot be ignored. We need to act urgently to halt the decline of bees and other invertebrates if we are to avoid their mass extinction....and the longer we wait, the more likely it is that the situation will spiral out of control. 

I am very fortunate to have recently become caretaker of a few acres of land which I am in the process of turning into a haven for bees and other wildlife. However, the home I have just moved from only has a tiny little patio, so I am able to say from first hand experience that you don't need lots of land or space to be able to do an enormous amount to help. Even if you only have a window box, you can still make a choice between planting it up with bedding plants like begonias (which are no good to man nor bee) or filling it to the brim with pollen and nectar rich flowers such as mediterranean herbs which will provide a much needed feast for pollinators and take a lot less attention and watering than begonias!

As well as creating as much wildlife friendly habitat as possible in your own back garden, there are also other ways that we can all help make a difference. Here are a few......

1. Stop using pesticides. It can take a couple of years for a garden or allotment to find its balance again after having been treated with insecticides and herbicides, but it's well worth the effort.

2. Become a Wildlife Recorder! If we don't know it's there in the first place we can't possibly know if it's in decline. Check out sites like Garden Bioblitz and iSpot and let them know what you have in your garden....there are plenty of experts on hand to help you identify plants and animals you don't recognise if you take a photograph.

3. Support growers and producers who use natural and organic methods on their land. Ask questions about how things have been grown and don't be fobbed off with vague 'not sures' or 'don't knows'.

4. Write to your local authority and ask about their policies for creating wildlife friendly habitat on amenity spaces and local verges. If they don't have one, or tell you it's not cost effective to allow the grass to grow longer or to create wildflower verges, point them towards the amazing 'Life on the Verge'  project in Lincolnshire.

5. listen to this incredibly powerful and very moving speech from Lolo Williams

6. Check out the fabulous information about the importance of composting from Sarah Blenkinsop' site The Compost Bin

7. Last, but not least, get out in your garden or go for a walk in a local park, woodland, or any other place that is not covered in concrete and get to know the plants and animals you share this wonderful planet with. 

Some more useful links.....